Every new arrival wants to know if they can survive or live well in Thailand on X thousand baht a month?

It's a difficult question because each person has different needs. However, the following surveys and figures are from teachers actually working here! How much do they earn and what do they spend their money on?. And after each case study, I've added comments of my own.

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Approximate Thai Baht (฿) conversion rates as of 26th November 2020

฿30 to one US Dollar
฿40 to one Pound Sterling
฿36 to one Euro
฿22 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.63 THB to one Philippine Peso

James

Working in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Monthly Earnings Around 81,000 baht

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

I make 50 million VND (around 67,000 baht) from my main job at a high school teaching 17 hours a week with no admin or prep time. I also make an extra 10 million VND (13K) from a language centre I teach at 3 hours a week in the evening. So I earn double what I made in Thailand with less workload.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I can easily save 30,000 a month. I could save more but I also want to have a decent lifestyle.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

My apartment is around 8,500 baht a month.

Honestly, one of my biggest gripes here compared to Thailand is accommodation. Even most of the new apartments here aren't as nice, most of them lack the facilities (pool, gym, onsite convenience store, etc) that are commonplace in Thailand and they just aren't the same.
Modern places similar to the ones in Thailand cost more than they do there and are only really found in the bigger cities.

Outside of Saigon/Hanoi, you'll probably have little choice but live in a Vietnamese style box with bars on the windows, noisy neighbours and no pool or gym. Even if you have the money to pay for more, there's no availability. Vietnamese people just aren't interested in modern, Westernised condos like Thai people are and they're mostly happy living in their boxes.

I really miss the standard of modern condos in Thailand.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

I bought a motorbike for a few thousand baht so besides petrol which is dirt cheap, nothing.

Utility bills

About 800 baht depending on how much I use the air conditioner/TV. Water and wifi is included in rent. Netflix is 66 baht.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I spend a lot on food as I'm not a fan of the Vietnamese fare. I spend up to 500 baht a day on Western/Japanese/Indian food. So that's up to 15,000 a month. Yeah, I could live a lot cheaper if I only ate pho, bun bo hue or banh mi every day but I just can't bring myself to do that more than a couple of times a week.

I'm lucky because I live in HCMC where a wide variety of international foods are available. But compared to Thailand, I don't think the food scene is as good. Outside of the bigger cities, it can be tough for picky eaters like me.

Nightlife and drinking

I'm not really a party animal so I only maybe go to my local expat pub once a week or drink at a Vietnamese street bar with some friends where the beers are 14 baht a glass so this expense is maybe 2,000 baht a month.

Books, computers

Nothing.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

I have a very good standard of living and Vietnam is well worth a look for farangs who are jaded with the low salaries, ever worsening visa hassle and Thailand's xenophobia but still want the tropical climate, laid-back lifestyle and don't fancy the entertainment 'wastelands' of The Middle East or the freezing winters of Korea.

Honestly, I do miss Thailand though. It is more fun there, the nightlife scene is a lot better, it's more developed, the infrastructure is better, the food scene is better, etc but with how things are going, it just didn't make sense to stay there anymore.

People are a lot nicer in Vietnam. There's less anti-farang sentiment and creepy nationalism here and I actually get treated like a teacher rather than a dancing white circus clown.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Practically everything.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

You could survive comfortably on 30,000 a month or even less if you live outside of the city and eat Vietnamese food. It really is one of the cheapest countries in the world to live in.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks for that James. You certainly paint a rosy picture of Vietnam as an alternative to teaching in Thailand. I have only been once for a short trip - and although a holiday compared to living and working in a country are two entirely different things - I thought the Vietnamese people were wonderful!

Some interesting insights there on food and accommodation. I'm kind of with you in terms of the cuisine. If I had to choose a restaurant for an evening meal, Vietnamese would probably be bottom of the list. I've just never grasped its appeal at all. 

I guess when it comes to housing, we are spoiled in Thailand by such a tremendous choice of Western-style apartments, etc and don't really realize it. It's a very interesting comparison though. I'm someone who needs a nice living environment and I certainly wouldn't fancy one of those Vietnamese boxes.

But all in all, it sounds like you're enjoying life and don't regret the decision to move. Well done!  


Joe

Working in Shanghai, China

Monthly Earnings 188,000

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

I earn 94,000 a month from my full-time ESL job and another 94,000 a month from private students. I only take one day off a week and teach around 13 hours extra for private classes. The full-time job is around 15 hours a week, but requires a lot of traveling around the city to class locations. My wife’s not working at the moment, but we could add another 47k a month later on when she does.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

We save about half our income most months when we don’t have any large expenses.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I pay 35,000 for a two-bedroom flat in a nice area of Shanghai, which has very high property prices.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

Nothing. I get transport cards from my school and that covers all my subway fees.

Utility bills

About 4,700 a month including mobile and WiFi.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

1,400 on food. Mainly order food from supermarkets online. A mix of home cooking and restaurant deliveries.

Nightlife and drinking

Only beer and wine at home.

Books, computers

A new phone, or iPad every few years.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

My wife and I have a really good standard of living. We don’t travel enough though, but we're quite satisfied.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Anything online! It is China after all.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

In Shanghai, as a single person you need at least 70,000 baht a month for a basic lifestyle.

Phil's analysis and comment

There's good money to be made in China by the sound of it, Joe but you work hard for it. Apart from the travelling around the city doing your full-time job, you've got 50+ hours of private lessons to organise and prepare for.  I'm guessing the 1,400 baht on food was a typo. Should that perhaps be 14,000?   


Stefan

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 90,000 + other sidelines

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

After taxes I earn 90,000 baht per month as a full-time science teacher at an international school. I also am an active Forex Trader and I do private tutoring which pays around 1,000 baht per hour. My wife earns around 40,000 per month. So in good months, we have a combined income of over 150,000.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Normally I would save at least 30,000, but it depends on the month. As I am still young, I am not really saving for retirement yet.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I share a nice house and garden with some friends and we share the rent. I pay around 13,000.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

I drive my car or motorbike most of the time so I guess around 3,000 baht on gasoline per month with the odd taxi drive.

Utility bills

Around 4,000 per month. which includes optic fiber Internet with 1Gbit.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

This very much depends on my mood. I can spend between 10,000 and 30,000 depending on what foods I am craving and what the wife wants to eat.

Nightlife and drinking

As I never drink cheap local beers, I might spend up to 15,000 per month on craft beers. But then again, some months I might spend close to nothing if I stay at home a lot.

Books, computers

I use my MacBook Pro, an iPad Air and an android phone which are already paid for. I might spend up to 2,000 baht per month on videogames.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

I feel like I am living to a very high standard, but I am also earning more in Thailand than I would earn in the West.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Eating out in Thailand is dirt cheap compared to my home country, Germany. Also the cost of high speed internet is unbelievably cheap here.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

I would say 50,000 would be enough to live decently as a single person in Bangkok. However in order to be able to save and not to worry about the future as much, I would not want to earn less than 80,000 as a single person.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Stefan. You and your wife have a nice standard of living there. I'm guessing that you don't have costly children either. It's just you and your partner to look after. 

Even without the private tutoring and the Forex trading, you have a nice income but sometimes it's all about having fingers in several different pies. 

I've thought about dabbling in that Forex trading myself a few times. I've got several friends who are enthusiasts and they all seem to do well with it. 


Please send us your cost of living surveys. We would love to hear from you! This is one of the most popular parts of the Ajarn website and these surveys help and inspire a lot of other teachers. Just click the link at the top of the page where it says 'Submit your own Cost of Living survey' or click here.       


Bob

Working in Cambodia

Monthly Earnings 50,000 baht (equivalent)

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

I earn 38,750 for my full-time job. Then I make an extra 2,000 from private lessons (90 minutes a week and charged per number of students) Online stuff nets me another 8,000 or so.

Coronavirus has meant my salary has been cut to 20,000. I've been on 50% pay since March but that will hopefully rise to 70% in September. It wasn't too bad as I was essentially being paid to do nothing. The private lessons and online work kept going (although with fewer students and less online stuff)

My wife works for the state and her exact income is a mystery to me, but I guess it's around 10,000 baht.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Not much at all because we have two kids. Probably 6,000 - 7,000 if I'm lucky.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I was lucky enough to get a mortgage loan some years ago and we built a property. By working extra hours, I was able to pay the mortgage off in a few years, so now at least we have a decent roof over our heads (100 square metres with a garden) We have also bought several plots of land with low interest rate loans and they amount to around 6,500 a month.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

I own several motorbikes so use those for transport. Work is not too far away and I rarely venture further than the local market. Maybe 300-500 baht on gas, which is cheap here at the moment.

Utility bills

Electricity can cost up to 2,000 baht a month. We run one air-con unit for the kids at night and also run the washing machine and electric oven quite a lot. Water costs about 150 baht.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I eat breakfast every morning which is 62 baht, plus I'll have a Western coffee once or twice a day, That adds another 80 baht.

I buy cheese, sausage, etc online and that's usually around 1,500 a month, then the odd Chinese or Indian meal for 600-700. We had to cut back on 'extras' due to the Coronavirus, but generally spend 200-300 baht a day on meat and vegetables from the local market to feed a family of four.

Fresh milk is a big expense and costs up to 1,000 a month. Baby formula is even more expensive at way over 3,000.

This lot adds up to around 20,000 each month.

Nightlife and drinking

I don't really go out but do like a drink (too much if truth be told). Beer in cans is cheap here and the cans have 'winning ring-pulls'. For every 370 baht spent on a case of 24 beers, you can get anywhere between 5-24 free cans depending on luck. I probably spend about 2,000 a month on beer. The ale flows pretty freely with guests and neighbors in both directions, and in the good days before Coronavirus, I'd also do 600 baht on a box of wine and maybe 400 baht on a good bottle of brandy every month.

I gave up smoking but foolishly got addicted to vaping (which is not strictly legal in Cambodia) The e-cigs set me back about 3,000 a month.

Books, computers

I miss books!

The internet is pretty good just using a mobile data plan. Special packages mean I pay less than 150 a month and can stream, do my internet work and listen to the radio all day everyday, without ever needing a router.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

It's not luxurious but we're surviving. Kids cost money! That much I do know.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Hard to give a definition of 'bargain' here as salaries are much lower than in Thailand and Vietnam. Also, most things are imported from outside so more expensive than the country of origin. Beer is certainly cheaper than in Thailand (but not Vietnam).

Compared to my own country, it's certainly cheaper to buy land and build a modest home in Cambodia.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

Average salaries for Westerners here start at 20,000 baht and go up to around 70,000, depending on your qualifications, but those kind of pay packets are rare. I'd say 30,000 baht is the bare minimum. I've been here a long time and earned a lot less and a lot more than 30K in those years.

Frankly, I'm happy to work for less money and live away from the capital in order to keep the costs down.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks a lot Bob. We haven't received surveys from many teachers in Cambodia but a pleasure to do so. I think you are doing well supporting a family on 60,000 baht a month (taking into account your wife's income) and you've managed to build a house and invest in some land at the same time. It's not a luxurious lifestyle as you readily admit, but I'm sure the family is the most important thing to you and you sound very well settled.  


Lisa

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 50,000

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

My full-time salary from a private school is 47,000 and I make 3,000 a month teaching a private student once a week.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I save around 15,000 each month.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

Rent is 9,500 per month. I live in a 26 sqm condo that has a swimming pool, gym, sauna and a basketball court in the complex.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

Around 500 baht per month, if not less. I usually walk to work as it's only around a 10-minute walk. Alternatively, I take a songteaw or if I'm running late, a motorcycle taxi.

Utility bills

Water and electricity costs me around 1,500 each month.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

My job serves really good food - morning snacks, a variety of meals at lunch and if I truly can't have anything on offer, the salad bar is my friend. My monthly groceries total to around 2,000 and I usually eat takeouts on the weekends, which can cost up to 4,000.

Nightlife and drinking

I only go out once a month. Drinks are expensive here and on a typical night out I end up blowing 2,000 on drinks and maybe another 1,000 on entry fees and taxis.

Books, computers

I spend 500 on Netflix and 500 for the wifi connection in my condo. English books are pricey here and I usually get books to keep from people passing through.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

My standard of living is great, but that is primarily due to the benefits of my job.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

The food is cheap and filling! It also tastes amazing.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

It depends on your lifestyle, I live a pretty basic lifestyle where I'm not out partying all the time so I could "survive" on less, maybe 35,000.

Phil's analysis and comment

I was going to say Lisa, you sound like someone who lives a 30K a month lifestyle and yet earns 50,000. You are living within your means and that's what it's all about. 


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 340 total

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